Is Kindle Unlimited Worth It?

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Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a program offered by Amazon that sounds like a great deal for readers who love the simplicity and space-saving of e-books. According to Amazon, the program provides access to more than two million titles, as well as magazines, all for the low monthly price of $9.99.

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When you consider that the average traditionally-published Kindle book runs between $9.99 and $12.99 at Amazon, it sure sounds like a good deal. But is it really? Let’s look at some analysis from reviewers and experts alike who have probed more deeply to determine if Kindle Unlimited is worth the money.

Good Accessibility

Perhaps the biggest pro for KU, according to Tech Radar, is that the Kindle app works on a variety of different platforms and devices. You don’t have to own a Kindle to read their books — the Kindle app is free and works just as well on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop or tablet.

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Moreover, when you open the app between devices, the book you’re reading will sync to the last page read.

Limited Titles

A review by Tech Radar revealed that while Amazon does indeed have over 2 million titles to choose from, these titles largely fall into two categories: romance and self-published books.

The site Make Use Of adds that you won’t find any books from the major publishing houses on KU in the U.S., meaning nothing from Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, or Simon & Schuster. And, of those 2 million titles available to you, Make Use Of states that about 1.3 million of them are Amazon Exclusive, not available for sale anywhere else, and thus likely self-published.

While neither site intends to disparage self-published authors, the point is that most people will be looking for at least a few books by known publishers and authors, including bestsellers, and you aren’t going to find any of those on KU. However, according to Review Geek, you will find a decent amount of old classic literature, published through AmazonClassics, such as Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston.

Additionally, there is a large number of magazines and some history books, so depending upon your interests, you may find KU worth your money and time.

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Restricted Library

Amazon states that you can borrow up to 20 KU titles at once, along with full magazine subscriptions. However, Tech Radar points out that you can’t store an unlimited amount of KU books in your library — it is capped at 20. And to clarify, you are only borrowing them — you don’t own the titles.

Browsing Challenges

Tech Radar also found browsing on KU to be “frustrating.” The site suggests that rather than trying to navigate the “favorites” or “recommended” sections via an e-reader or mobile device, which will show only 20 titles each, you should navigate via “Browse the Catalogue” on a desktop browser so you can see more titles displayed.

Is the Price Really Low?

At face value, $9.99 per month for unlimited reads is an excellent value. However, Make Use Of notes that most self-published books sell for between $1 and $3, and many are free as a way for self-published authors to promote their work. Thus, to make that $9.99 worth your while, you’d need to read more than a few books in a month.

Review Geek suggests that you might be better off taking advantage of a feature that comes with an Amazon Prime membership called Prime Reading. Through Prime Reading you have free access to more than 1,000 eBooks, which do include more contemporary options.

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An Amazon Prime membership costs $139 per year, or $14.99 per month, but comes with all the perks of a Prime membership, including free 1-day shipping, and access to thousands of Prime Video selections, among others.

A Note About KU Authors

Though this may not be important to all readers, it’s worth noting that in traditional publishing, an author is paid a royalty for every book a consumer purchases. Kindle Unlimited authors, on the other hand, are paid for each page that subscribers read, a few cents per page, according to Review Geek. Low royalties are another reason why major publishers aren’t interested in putting their authors into the KU system.

The Verdict

If you are a voracious and/or adventurous reader who doesn’t care about the variety of the titles, and are willing to take your chances on quality, KU may be right for you.

If you are a slow-to-average reader, prefer to read contemporary books by known publishers or have access to a wider variety of titles, skip KU and take advantage of Prime Reading. Or, look into other apps like Scribd and Libby, which are free through your local library.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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